If you're a Vikings fan but also a fatalist looking for things to worry about regarding Sunday's NFC title game at Philadelphia, you can find all sorts of statistics to latch onto.
No. 1 seeds, as the Eagles are this year, are 8-0 the last eight times they've reached an NFC or AFC title game. The Vikings are 3-13 in road playoff games since 1982, the year they started playing in the Metrodome. The Eagles are 4-0 when they're home underdogs in the playoffs, and the last time the Vikings were a road favorite in an NFC title game at an NFC East opponent, they lost 41-0.
Isolating just that one stat about the Vikings' road struggles in the playoffs magnifies a narrative that was true: During the Metrodome era, the Vikings were a much better indoor team than outdoor team.
All that said, none of that history is particularly relevant when considering how things will go Sunday.
And in regards to the biggest factor -- playing outdoors on the road in January -- I think the Vikings have a combination of roster construction and two years spent playing home games at TCF Bank Stadium to thank for changing the narrative.
Before we get too far, too, I should note that any statistics you see about cold weather games are likely going to be irrelevant this weekend. The forecasted high temperature in Philadelphia on Sunday is a balmy 51, while the expected low is just 38. While that's certainly chillier than the temperature-controlled U.S. Bank Stadium, that forecast -- if it holds -- is more akin to an early November game than a mid-January game and should be quite comfortable.
So here's the thing: The Vikings used to struggle when they had to play outside. Spending 32 seasons in the Metrodome will do that to a team. Based on numbers gathered by Star Tribune data editor Mary Jo Webster, from 1982-present, the Vikings have won just 39 percent of their games played outside -- one of the worst percentages in the NFL. Now, that number is skewed somewhat because teams with outdoor stadiums get to include home games in that figure, but it does illustrate the general struggle for the Vikings outside.
Some specifics: The 2013 Vikings, the last team to play in the Dome, were winless in outdoor road games that season. The 2012 Vikings made the playoffs at 10-6, but they were also winless outside (including a playoff loss at Green Bay). Even the juggernaut 2009 Vikings had a huge split. They were a perfect 9-0 at the Dome, including a playoff win, but just 2-3 in outdoor road games.
It's not a problem singular to the Vikings. Indoor teams have often struggled when having to play in the elements.
But two things happened in 2014. One, Mike Zimmer was hired. He started building a defense-first team that was quite different from a lot of the offensive-minded teams that thrived in the Dome in the 1990s and 2000s. Defense tends to "travel well," as they say, giving the Vikings a team better suited to win road games outside. And second, the Vikings got a lot more accustomed to playing outside when they spent two full home seasons (2014 and 2015, Zimmer's first two years) at TCF Bank Stadium while U.S. Bank Stadium was being constructed.
Since then, the Vikings have still been a better indoor team than outdoor team, going 18-7 inside over the last four seasons -- including 8-1 this season at U.S. Bank Stadium, counting Sunday's playoff win. But their outdoor record, counting both home games and road games, is 22-18 (winning 55 percent of the time). One of those losses was the 10-9 playoff defeat to Seattle in 2015, a game the Vikings would have won if Blair Walsh had made a 27-yard field goal.
Even if we just isolate outdoor road games, the Vikings are a respectable 10-8 outside in the last three years. One of those losses, it should be noted, came in 2016 at Philadelphia -- when the Vikings' offensive line was in the beginning of what would turn into an epic collapse. This year, they were 4-2, with outdoor wins at Chicago, Washington and Green Bay as well as the neutral game in London over the Browns.
The two outdoor road losses were against playoff teams who have strong quarterbacks -- Pittsburgh and Carolina. The Vikings gave up a combined 57 points in those two games. They also allowed 30 in that win at Washington against Kirk Cousins. If the Vikings were going up against an Eagles team quarterbacked by Carson Wentz, Sunday's outdoor game would be a lot more worrisome.
Nick Foles is not a bad backup, and he acquitted himself nicely in the Eagles' 15-10 win over the Falcons last weekend.
But there's a reason the Vikings are favored in this game. Zimmer has built a suffocating defense that has proven to be particularly adept at flustering decent-but-not-great quarterbacks, and he's built the kind of team that can win on the road.
The last time the Vikings played an NFC title game at an NFC East opponent in the 2000 season, neither of those things were true about them.